Software Piracy: A Big Crime With Big Consequences Imaging for a moment that you come across an advertisement saying you can meet up with an individual who will break into a store, disarm all of the alarms and will hold the door open for you as you walk inside and take anything you wish. This criminal offence occurs every day on computer systems around the world including the internet. This is a very serious problem and is very difficult to circumvent. Every computer user is both tempted and immersed in software piracy in its many forms. One of the most disturbing facts behind this crime is that many people who participate in the distribution of commercial software don't even know they are committing a crime. Software piracy is a very serious and widespread crime that must be acknowledged and dealt with.
Software piracy is the unauthorized duplication and or distribution of copyrighted programs. There are two ways to be involved in software piracy. The first is facilitation. Facilitation is the deliberate copying of copyrighted software and distributing it.
An example would be an MIT student named DavidLaMacchia. This individual served and maintained a computer that was connected to the internet that offered it's users more than one million dollars worth of software 'free of charge.' Mr. LaMacchia was caught by the authorities and was acquitted of this piracy due to the lack of legal standards for this crime. Another example is off local bulletin board systems. Many are run out of the offenders homes with just a phone line, a computer and a modem. Here members of this service can send and receive pirated software (otherwise known as 'warez') as their own pace and leisure.
There are not just one or two of these bullet inboards around there are in fact many. Most reside in large cities and the offenders are in most cases minors. As the computer gains a more stable hold on our society these bulletin boards are replaced by the ones that are linked to the internet. By this individuals can anonymously put out copyrighted software for the use of any anonymous user of the internet such as the type of system that Mr. LaMacchia ran. The second way to be involved in software piracy is to be on the receiving end.
These individuals can be anyone. All they need is a computer and access to a computer. In this an individual willingly breaks copyright law and retrieves by whatever means copyrighted software. In effect this individual steals the software for their use. Again in this case the offenders are usually minors.
Keep in mind that is it not only minors that a recommitting acts of software piracy, many adults and especially companies and corporations still pirate software but they do so at a very little profile. There are many ways that an individual can commit software piracy. Six different methods are of the most evident ways to pirate software. The first and most common method of software piracy is called 'End User Copying' or " soft lifting.' This type of piracy is the out right copying of a program and giving it to a friend or a colleague.
An example of this is an individual just bought a brand new computer game from the store. They liked it so much that they made a copy and gave it to a friend. The second form of piracy is what is referred to as hard disk loading. This is where a computer dealer or company copy and load unauthorized copies of software onto the hard disks or the main storage facility on the computer they will sell.
This is a more commercial aspect of software piracy and many of these companies use this as an incentive to sell their machines by making more software for the machine available to the customer. The third method is becoming more popular as many more people are getting connected to the internet. This is the downloading or sending copyrighted / illegal software via a modem to a public or private bulletin board system or the internet. This type of piracy is usually at no charge to the end user and is usually open to many people.
The fourth type of software piracy is known as counterfeiting. This is the illegal duplication and sale of copyrighted / illegal software. This can be a very complex and sophisticated way of piracy. This can include a relatively significant effort to duplicate the original packaging, logos and other anti-counterfeiting techniques such as holograms. This type of piracy can also be very unsophisticated by the copying of the software and placing different of different labels on the copied media and then just blatantly selling it to whomever they choose.
This is not just the distributing of pirated software this is the selling of the software with a motive for undue profit. The fifth method of software piracy is over computer networks. A network is a series of computers physically linked to one or more main computers called servers. Each server stores the software for all the computers it serves. Each time a computer accesses the server for a program it copies the program on to the local computer for use. This in itself is legal but the owner of the network must have licenses for each copy of a program that is being used otherwise this is copyright infringement.
The sixth and final type of software piracy is known as 'Software Rental.' This is where software is 'rented' to individuals who typically copy the software to their individual computers and return the original rented piece of software to the renter. This method of piracy is not as common as the rest due the nature of the distribution but it does exist. The Software Publishers Association (S. P. A. ) have sued the owner of a store located in Winnipeg called 'Microplay' for the renting of software to its customers.
This type of piracy does exists but it is usually halted soon after it starts. These are the many ways that software piracy can be and is committed. Even though there are many more methods of piracy, these six are the of the most evident and can be dealt with. If software piracy is a crime why do people do it? Well there are many reasons why individuals commit software piracy. On the whole many otherwise good citizens are not aware of the crime that they are committing. Weather it is just careless ignorance or the lack of awareness to the law these people a recommitting a crime and may not be aware of it.' I am motivated by the belief that some capitalist pig create the goods therein, and thus they should be free to the people.' (Laberis) This interpretation is the most common especially among minors.
As the quote suggests many believe that major software moguls such as Bill Gates (the owner and founder of Microsoft) already have more money than they need so it is alright to steal from them as 'they do not need the money' or they believe that their single actions can not hurt. For this many 'software pirates' do not believe that what the yare doing is wrong. Another reason is for shear greed. Either they do not have the ability to pay for the software they use or they do not feel that they should.
As was stated earlier minors are the most likely to commit software piracy. Many do so to the challenge the law and for rebellion as glorified with the rumours and stories of 'hackers.' On the technical side software piracy is relatively easy to commit. All one needs is a computer and some type of removable means of storage such as diskettes or CD-ROM's. It takes seconds to transfer data which takes care of the time problem.
Also unlike the copying of audio of video cassettes there is not quality loss in the copied product. When an individual copies a piece of software they copy an exact duplicate of the software all the features that the copied software contains with absolutely no quality loss therefore making it an attractive means of both acquiring and distributing illegal software. There are to consequences to software piracy. Piracy not only hurts business but it hurts the legal owners of software.
By stealing software the creators of the software cannot recover their losses nor can they make their program better.' Piracy harms all software publishers, regardless of their size. Software publishers spend years developing software for the public to use. A portion of every dollar spent in purchasing the original software funnelled back into research and development so that better, more advanced software products can be produced. When you purchase pirated software your money goes directly into the pockets of the pirates instead.' (Microsoft) This excerpt is from a booklet released by the Microsoft corporation and is about software licensing and piracy.
This excerpt accurately displays the truth. Not only is the offender hurt by pirating but every that has legally purchased the product is being affected as well. By pirating software you do not get the support that would normally come with a program. Nor do you get the manuals that explain the proper use of the program. But the consequences can be also legally severe. An organization called the Software Publisher's Association (S.
P. A. ) has devoted their time to cracking down software piracy commercially and on the internet. The S. P. A.
is the leader in software piracy prosecution. They organization campaigns for individuals to report piracy to them and then on behalf of the companies that are affected theS. P. A. takes legal action against those they see that are committing a gross violation of the copyright laws. One such business was a company in Winnipeg called Microplay.
As I mentioned before the S. P. A. on behalf of its members sued the owner and proprietor of Microplay for the rental of software to its members. As of yet a settlement has not been reached.
This is just one action of many that the S. P. A. spearheads. Don't think that major companies and business are affected by the crackdown on software piracy. The fact on Canadian copyright law infringement is not specific to software piracy.
This is very dangerous because the first incident of piracy that is taken to Canadian law courts has the potential to be acquitted such as the case of David LaMacchia in the United States. Since the LaMacchia incident the United States have set down harsh and binding consequences to software piracy. A first offence can call for at least five years of imprisonment and / or a two hundred thousand dollar fine. And that is just for the first offence! If you are convicted as a facilitator or have been convicted for software piracy in the past you can face up to ten years in prison and / or fines of up to two hundred and fifty thousand dollars per convicted infringement. Canada is expected to adopt somewhat similar consequences in the near future. Stiff penalties will not stop all piracy but it is a start and with harsh prosecution of infringements and high consequences piracy can hopefully be curbed on the small scale.
There are ways to prevent being caught with pirated software. First of all buy software from reputable dealers only. The less reputable the dealer the less chance of the product being legitimate. Do some research on the product you are about to buy. Not only will it save money from buying useless products but it will inform of what types of things to expect with the package. Third make sure that the product had some type of copy protection weather it be a registration number or some type of anti-piracy logo or hologram.
Plus make sure all software came with a set of licensing documents. These documents outline the proper usage of the product and warranty information. Then make sure that once the software has been purchased that it has been registered with the company that created it. Buy doing this technical support, updates and discounts on other programs can be attained with out any problems or hassle. Software piracy is a fact of life. It is a crime that occurs at every second of the day and in every country in the world.
By ignoring copyright law, intellectual property is being misused. By ignoring the problem it can only get worse. The two greatest ways to defeat software piracy is by education and prosecution. By educating the masses in a time of computer globalization assurance of knowledge about software piracy will increase and ignorance will hopefully be abated. Frank Clegg (Director for Canadian Alliance Against Software Theft) said it best, 'stealing software is like stealing anything else. It is wrong!' (Computing Canada) Works Cited " To Copy Or Not To Copy.' web 12, 1996.' Copyright Protection Campaign.' web back.
htm. October 12, 1996. Laberis, Bill. 'A Crime That Pays.' Computerworld. 29. 2 (1995): 34.
Microsoft. 'Microsoft Licensing Policies: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions.' Microsoft Corporation, 1996.' The Piracy Problem.' Computing Canada. 21. 12 (1995): 12.